China table tennis ‘bad boys’ Ma Long, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong back in action for National Games
Trio were involved in the infamous ‘no-show’ at the China Open in June, but have been allowed to take part in the Tianjin tournament later this month
China table tennis “bad boys” Ma Long, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong will return to competition at this month’s National Games for the first time since their infamous “no-show” at the China Open in June.
The trio has been partly reinstated by the Chinese Table Tennis Association and given the go ahead to take part in the 13th National Games, running from August 28 to September 6 in Tianjin.
Although Ma, Xu and Fan have been allowed to return to the fray, the Chinese Table Tennis Associaton has made it clear that the trio have not been fully reinstated after their role in the “no-show” five weeks ago at the China Open and Australian Open earned a stinging rebuke from the mainland’s top sports body, the General Administration of Sports of China.
The trio pulled out of both tournaments in an apparent protest over the release of long-time Chinese coach Liu Guoliang, who was removed from his post after more than a decade at the helm. Liu has since taken up a new post as vice-chairman of the association.
Their action caused widespread embarrassment to the team with the top sports body condemning their “no-show” while demanding the Chinese Table Tennis Association investigate the matter with “utmost urgency”.
The Chinese Table Tennis Association said the trio, led by triple Olympic gold medallist, Ma Long, are “still under investigation” but allowed to continue playing under the Beijing team banner at the National Games. Ma, who is recovering from a slight wrist injury, will compete in three events – men’s team, doubles and singles.
Xu, the Rio Olympic team gold medallist and world number three, will represent Shanghai, while 20-year-old Fan will turn out for the People’s Liberation Army.
“The entry list for the final stages of the 13th National Games has been completed and the list has been made public,” said the Chinese Table Tennis Association.
“Those objecting to the players’ list can call or write to the General Adminstration of Sports of China and state their reasons why they shouldn’t be included,” it added.
The association didn’t mention whether Ma Lin, a retired player and a former men’s doubles gold medallist from the 2004 Athens Games and men’s coach Qin Zhijian, who were also involved in the protest, have also been reinstated.
The Chinese Table Tennis Association also named world number five Zhang Jike, only one of four players to have achieved the table tennis grand slam [world championships, World Cup and Olympics], on the players’ list. Zhang was not involved in the protest.
Also named were 25-year-old left-hander Zhou Yu and world number seven women’s singles player and Zhu Yuling.
They will be joined by triple women’s Olympic gold medallist Ding Ning, the world number one, Liu Shiwen, the world number two and 22-year-old Zhu Yuling, the two-time world junior singles champion.
The Chinese Table Tennis Association has also named Hong Kong players to the Games, led by Wong Chun-ting, with Ho Kwan-kit and local women’s champion Doo Hoi-kem also flying the flag for Hong Kong.